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Reaction to ambulance response times at Bishop Auckland maternity unit
THE ambulance service has responded to criticism over response times which are being blamed for suspension of a North-East maternity unit.
Deliveries at the midwifery-led unit at Bishop Auckland have been suspended since July after County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said it could not guarantee a safe outcome should a woman need transfering for consultant care at nearby hospitals in Darlington or Durham.
The North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) is required to reach 75 per cent of the most serious cases within eight minutes and last month 78 per cent of life-threatening incidents were reached within the target.
These cases include road traffic accidents, cardiac arrests and other serious traumas but there is no specific target for maternity calls.
Due to the geographic nature of the Durham and the Dales, the target for the eight minute response time is 71 per cent, but recently the ambulance service recorded 75 per cent.
A spokeswoman for NEAS said: “While NEAS does have an ambulance station close to the Bishop Auckland maternity unit, the ambulances do not wait at the station on stand-by. They are out on the road dealing with all nature of medical conditions.
“Staff report for duty; collect their vehicle and supplies, and begin attending calls. For the majority of the working day, the ambulance crews are busy delivering excellent patient care throughout the Durham and Dales area.
“Neither NEAS nor any other ambulance service would be able to guarantee a 100 per cent response time, even if it was commissioned - which it has not been.”
Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland: “County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust and NEAS say that the problem is that they cannot guarantee that they are able to take a woman from Bishop Auckland to Durham or Darlington.
“I find this incredible because Bishop Auckland Hospital is right next to the ambulance station. Furthermore we know that ambulances stack up at the A&E department at the University Hospital of North Durham which is preventing them from being ready to respond to call outs.
"This too is wholly inefficient.”
The spokeswoman for NEAS added: “No part of the ambulance service has ever been commissioned to deal solely with maternity cases. Our crews are there for all types of emergencies, covering everything from serious road traffic accidents to cardiac arrests.
“We would be more than happy to arrange for Helen to visit our control room and see first-hand how we manage our daily intake of emergency calls.”
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